Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Claus in Stop-Motion

(This Blog was made while listening to the 2 Royal Christmas Podcasts of Oz on Wednesday December 23, 2009)

I have just finished watching the 1985 stop-motion Rankin/Bass film of "the Life and Adventures of Santa Claus".

It runs for 50 minutes, and in that running time it conveys the story well without feeling too long or even rushed. Although I prefer stories in chronological order, I do like how Ak's recalling of finding "the babe" to the Immortals blends in with that same retelling to the Nymphs. I like how Shiegra the lioness stays alive with Claus as she does live in the Forest of Burzee, automatically (to me) making her immortal, and Tingler the Sound Imp is a lovable character who always gets his languages mixed up but always manages to answer properly in the end.

What I like best about this adaptation is the depiction of the Awgwas. They are monstrous beasts with hairy bodies, sometimes with horns and fangs and claws, some parts in armour - one moster funny enough looks like a "Wild Thing"! Not that it's relevant aside from the time, but the partially-hairy King Awgwa reminds me of Grizzlor from "She-Ra".
I don't mind how the Immortals are depicted, Ak has the best portrayal with moose-like horns, a white robe with cape and a long hard nose. And his voice is so fitting too. Necile and the other nymphs are fairy-like with antennas out of their heads and little wings and short costumes, but since this is a first adaptation of the story (if not, one of the earliest), I'm not fussed.

Since this feature is under an hour, there are many moments from the book that are shortened, combined or abandoned.
* the rich lord's daughter from the book, Bessie Blithesome, is unnamed and an extra. She doesn't appear other than dining at the table as a little girl during the sequence where Ak shows Claus the world. She does not visit Claus, but while making the toys he does say that he will give the toy to her, whether she is rich or poor, for all children need toys.
* the little black kitten Blinkie is described by Claus in passing how it came to live with them - Necile's gift in teaching them to live together.
* the hanging Stockings (for drying) are put together with Claus making his first trip down the Chimney.
* Unlike the book, this film does help show what age Claus is throughout the years. He is a teenager (of sorts) when he leaves Burzee, and from then (through a good-looking bearded 20s/30s man) till like 45 is him helping the children with more reading, making friends and toys, along with the conflict of the Awgwas. After delivering toys for 15 years, he is granted Immortality (and ends the film) at 60.
* Peter the Knook is unpleased at the reindeer being late at dawn (even by a minute), but he does not appear to have woken up Claus, and he is easily persuaded by the others (not Ak) to allow the reindeer to be used "for the children", but it is he who determines the date.

The songs featured here are few, but fun and memorable. They fit the story, are sometimes touching, and do not sound out of place or unnecessary.

I like stop-motion animation. It may be much harder to make one character and background than it is in hand-drawn animation, but I believe it is a perfect connection between the traditional hand-drawn animation and the live-action, and certainly much more physical and real than CGI, of which you cannot do anything other than save on the computer and/or print images. With hand-drawn animation you can still see the sheets of which you've used to make the film.

I was able to watch this film thanks to Jared Davis, who did a home-made DVD rip for me as well as the other animated film. Noting the remastered picture, I would like to get the official DVD soon.

My next blog will be on Universal's hand-drawn / digitally-painted animated musical from 2000.

Till then . . . !

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I know some people find Tingler annoying, and he's probably a bit overused, but I think he fits all right into the story.